FINANCE Minister Dr ‘Mamphono Khaketla has dismissed allegations she attempted to solicit a M4 million bribe from a joint venture company shortlisted for a multimillion-maloti fleet tender.
Addressing a press conference in Maseru yesterday, Dr Khaketla repeatedly described the allegations as “baseless lies” saying she was being persecuted for her “strict management” of state and Democratic Congress (DC) coffers as Finance minister and party treasurer respectively.
The minister was responding to sensational allegations made by DC Youth League leader Thuso Litjobo and his Secretary-General Letuka Chafotsa that Dr Khaketla demanded a M4 million bribe from a joint venture company, Lebelonyane, shortlisted for the lucrative tender.
The government cancelled the tender process in June this year, opting to instead extend its original six month contract with Bidvest into a new four-year contract for the South African company even though it had not bid for the cancelled tender. Lebelonyane is now seeking a reversal of the government’s decision in the courts, arguing it should have been awarded the tender after getting hold of a revised tender evaluation report that recommended them as the recipients of the tender.
Dr Khaketla said her “biggest crime” in the view of the youths was not letting them do as they pleased with state and party finances. The minister has since demanded M6 million from Messrs Litjobo and Chafotsa as compensation for the “defamatory statements” the duo issued against her.
“The truth is these allegations are all lies. But since I have already filed a case in the courts against these busy bodies, I will address these issues in court. And I hope they will also be able to back up their allegations with witnesses and evidence. Therefore, if I could address them here, I would jeopardize the case,” Dr Khaketla said.
The minister said she had been a “loyal servant” of the government of Lesotho for over 30 years, adding she would not be swayed by the youths’ negative talk.
“My take is there is more to this issue than they are letting on. I am being used as a bridge by these busy bodies in order to achieve their interests,” Dr Khaketla said.
“It is a known fact the DC recently held its elective conference in which I emerged as a winner against their wish; even after the votes were re-counted.”
“It would seem these utterances are meant to continue their onslaught against me in the build-up to the elective conference. They accused me of keeping a tight leash on the party’s finances and, therefore, frustrating their efforts to get their hands on the money.”
She added: “This shows that even at government level, their wish was also to do as they pleased with public finances. And that will never happen! That is my greatest sin to them although they won’t publicly admit it.”
Efforts to contact Messrs Litjobo and Chafotsa yesterday were fruitless as their phones were unreachable.